Ford Fiesta 1.4 Zetec

Does current class leader still offer enough to retain crown?

The Ford Fiesta is the best-selling model in Britain – and it’s easy to see why. It won our Car of the Year prize in 2009 and has dominated the supermini sector ever since, but is its time at the top about to end?
While the hatch is a familiar sight on our roads, it has lost none of its visual impact. The bold Squeeze Green paint of our test car helps, yet the finish costs £700 and the Ford still looks great in drab colours. Its sharp lines and taut proportions are fantastic, and they don’t compromise the interior.
Despite having the shortest wheelbase in this test, the Fiesta offers more passenger space than all but the Rio, and its user-friendly 295-litre boot is the largest here. Up front, the cabin is hard to fault. A height-adjustable driver’s seat, excellent visibility and neatly laid-out controls will help you feel at home.
The smart dash design places the audio controls high up on the centre console, while the chunky air-con dials could not be simpler to use. However, the Kia boasts higher-quality switchgear.
The kit tally on Zetec models includes a heated windscreen, leather-trimmed steering wheel and trip computer, while the soft glow emitted by the standard-fit mood lighting gives the cabin a classy ambience after dark.
But whether it’s night or day, you can’t help but be impressed by the accomplished Ford from behind the wheel. The steering is precise, beautifully weighted and responds quickly and accurately to inputs. Also, there’s loads of grip and body control is excellent.
Put simply, no other car in the class corners with such composure and confidence. The real beauty of the Fiesta is that its razor-sharp handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, as it has a supple ride and is a relaxing long-distance companion.
In fact, perfectly judged controls make it a breeze to drive, whatever journey you’re undertaking. The five-speed gearbox has a precise yet effortless action, while the strong brakes deliver excellent stopping power. The tried-and-tested 95bhp 1.4-litre Duratec engine doesn’t have enough punch to out-accelerate the more powerful Rio or Clio turbo, but it’s willing and keen to rev. Ultimately, the Kia is faster against the clock, yet the Fiesta is never outpaced on the road and it’s easily the most fun to drive.
The best news is that this dynamic excellence doesn’t demand a prohibitive price tag. Only the Rio is cheaper to buy in this test, and the Ford promises to hold on to its value effectively. It should also be affordable to run and, contrary to official figures, posted the second-best fuel return in our quartet.
It looks as though it’s going to take a very special car to knock the Fiesta off top spot.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Sharp chassis, stylish looks and competitive prices make the Fiesta a huge favourite. It was the best-selling car of 2010.

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